First things first, I have my actual check-ride scheduled! October 15th.
Today was my stage check with a different CFI, just to see if I’m ready for my check-ride. It would have been a great day to fly a glider, more on that later. I left home a little early to make sure I wasn’t running late. I wasn’t completely sure what to expect, but thought the worse thing that could happen was a list of things to clean up.
I got to the school and chatted with those in the lobby for a few minutes. They were talking about how busy it was out there today. One of the CFI’s said that they did 360’s for a few minutes on their way back from the training area before they finally got a chance on the radio to contact the tower.
We went and sat down at the CFI’s desk. He asked if this was a full stage check and I told him it was. He took out a piece of paper, started asking me questions, and making notes. The oral portion took almost two hours and went well. I have to remember to ‘just answer the question.’ A couple of times I offered more information than he was looking for and that led to further questions. There were a few things that I looked up, a few that I just didn’t know the answer to, and a few follow up questions that I asked him which he had to think about. We finished up that portion, he gave me the notes with the subjects to go home and brush up on, and then we headed out to the plane.
He left me to pre-flight the plane and by the time he came back I was already done.
CFI: “You’re already done?”
CFI: “Everything look good?”
CFI: “Okay, let’s go fly. If there’s something you feel really good about we’ll skip that today.”
Me: (With my foggles in hand) “Are we doing instrument flying, unusual attitudes?”
CFI: “How do you feel about it?”
Me: “I’m good to go, unusual attitudes are easy and I just did an hour flight beginning to end under the hood with my CFI. We took off and did unusual attitudes, then flew a triangle from Paradise to Pamona, then south and back to Paradise before shooting the ILS.”
CFI: “Sounds good, we’ll skip that, anything else?”
Me: “We just did stalls and I feel good about them. I was shallowing out my right turn on steep turns and I need work on my soft field take-offs, I keep flying right up through ground effect instead of staying in it to build speed. Next week when I fly with my CFI we are going to concentrate on short field and soft field take-offs and landings.”
CFI: “Well, we can fix the soft field take-offs today.”
I went through the rest of the start-up checklist, started the plane, and then we started our taxi. Just before we got to the end of the hangar row another plane from the school was coming around the corner. There’s not enough room for us both so he turned around and went back to an intersection so we could get past. We stopped, I got the ATIS information, and then it was about a 3-4 minute wait to get my chance to talk to Ground. It was still a busy day.
On the taxi out to the run-up area he asked what I was having problems with on the soft field take-offs. I told him that for some reason I just kept popping through the ground effect, that I just couldn’t get the right sight picture. He said to think about it, the wings are about where the bottom of my feet are and that the ground is only a couple feet below that, so it is flying about as high off the ground as if I was just standing up. I think I still just need to see it…
I went step by step through my run-up checklist and then talked through the different abort procedures (if there was still enough runway left I would try to stop on the runway, if we had just lifted off but under 600′ AGL we would be landing straight ahead in the fields, if we were above that we would try to come back and land on runway 3 or in the fields to the south of the airport). The winds were coming a little from the right, but not enough to be considered a cross-wind. It was a warm day, and the plane was not climbing well. KCNO is at 650′ and the traffic pattern is 1,400′ because we are below Ontario’s airspace. Normally I start my turn at 1,100′ but we were well past the point where I normally turn and just barely reaching 1,000′ when the tower asked me to start my turn. We got about two miles south of the airport and what had been about a 300′ per minute climb suddenly became more than 1000′ per minute. Sometimes the thermals can be your friend. He asked me how high I was going to climb and I told him 2,500 to stay below Ontario’s 2,700′ shelf.
As we were approaching 2,400′ I pushed over for what I thought would be a typical leveling off. I don’t have a ton of hours, but I have enough that I know what the sight picture out the front looks like in level flight. In fact, I use what is outside the windows to know how I am flying and glance down at the instruments just to verify. (It is Visual Flight Rules after all). I looked at my altimeter, it wasn’t slowing down as much as it should have been and the vertical speed indicator (which has a little lag to it) was still showing the climb. I drifted up through 2,500 and finally got the climb to stop at 2,550 with a nose down attitude. That thermal that had been helping me out was now working against me, and I didn’t want to bust into Ontario’s Class C. Remember that I said earlier that it would have been a good day to fly a glider? It wasn’t long before we had moved out of the thermal and I settled in at 2,500′ nice and level.
We crossed south over the 91 freeway and began a climb to 4,500′ but with the heat we were climbing so slowly that we gave up at 3,500′ and decided to do maneuvers there. (We were about 2,000′ AGL which is more than what is required). First up was steep turns. I did my clearing turns and the rolled into a left bank. I came out of it right on heading without gaining or losing any altitude. I then rolled into the ‘not so friendly right turn’ but managed it just fine. As I was rolling out I was close to 100′ below my starting altitude, but not quite, and let it come back up to my starting altitude.
CFI: “So if you are losing altitude in your turn what could you do? You already have full power because it’s a hot day. You can pull back on the yoke but that will also increase your speed.”
Me: “I guess shallow out my bank just a little?”
CFI: “Exactly, not much, because you are supposed to be in a 45° bank, but just a few degrees will help.”
From steep turns we went into slow flight. I stayed coordinated and did everything he was asking. I was a little slow in my recovery from slow flight so he gave me a few pointers. After that he needed an “emergency” to get us down lower for ground reference maneuvers. I was waiting for the engine failure, engine fire, or cabin fire. That’s not what I got…
CFI: “Okay, here’s the scenario. I’m having a heart attack so we need to divert to Riverside and get on the ground. But first, I think I want to see some s-turns over the 15.”
Me: “That’s creative.”
I pulled power and pushed the nose over alternating back and forth between right and left 45° banks to lose altitude faster.
CFI: “So how fast do we want to get going?”
Me: “Well, we can’t go faster than 171mph (pointing to the red line on the airspeed indicator) but as bumpy as it is today I don’t want to get any faster than 140mph.”
CFI: “Why don’t we keep it under 120mph.”
Me: “Oh, is your heart feeling a little better?”
Once we were low enough I brought it around to make some s-turns over the 15 freeway. I made three nice s-turns, rolling wings level right over the freeway before starting my next turn and keeping my altitude dead on.
CFI: “Those look great, but you don’t have to make them so tight. Let me have the controls.”
He began to make a lazy s-turn to the left.
CFI: “See, this is just fine for an s-turn, we are constantly turning and it gives you a lot more room for mistakes.” He finished the turn and then said “Or you can make an s-turn like this” as he threw it into a 60° bank to the right. He rolled out of that turn and said “But that leaves you no room for error. Take us to Riverside.”
I got the ATIS information for Riverside and then called up the tower.
Me: “Riverside tower, Cherokee 5800Uniform, over the west end of Lake Matthews at 2,500, inbound for touch-n-go’s with information Echo.”
Tower: “Cherokee 5800Uniform, report over the auto center for a left base for runway 27.”
Me: “Will report over the auto center for left base for runway 27, 00Uniform.” To the CFI “That’s the auto center right over there right?”
CFI: “I don’t know” (Yes he does) “What does your chart say?”
I pulled out my TAC and took a quick look.
Me: “Yep, that’s the auto center.”
CFI: “What would you do if you couldn’t figure it out?”
Me: “Tell the tower I was unfamiliar.”
CFI: “Exactly. When we land I want a short field landing and touch down on the top of the 2.” (We’re coming in on runway 27)
I called up the tower when we were over the auto center and was given clearance for a touch-n-go only. (There was someone on a straight in final behind me). I was lined up on a nice stabilized approach, 80mph, when the tower called up.
Tower: “Cherokee 5800Uniform, make best speed possible.”
Me: “Will make best speed, 00Uniform.” I nosed over a little and added some power.
CFI: “Let me have the plane.”
I gave him the plane, he took out the flaps and went full power briefly, then pulled power back, put flaps back in, and gave the plane back to me. At this point we were coming in faster and very high.
CFI: “Go ahead and make your touchdown point the 1000′ marks now that we are high.”
Me: “I was just going to put it into a slip and try to hit the numbers.”
CFI: “Sounds good.”
I was able to slip the plane down and almost touch down at the previous point of the top of the numbers. Immediately after touching down it was flaps up, full power, and we were off again. the tower had advised us of a police helicopter working off the southwest end of the runway so we watched for him as I was going from my crosswind to my downwind. The CFI asked me what I could do if that same situation came up on my check-ride where the tower wanted me going faster. I told him I could just go around which he said would be perfect.
CFI: “Okay, on this one give me a soft field landing followed by a soft field take-off.”
Me: “So do you want a stop and taxi back?”
CFI: “No, we can do it as a touch-n-go. How many notches of flaps do you use on landing?”
CFI: “How many notches for a soft field take-off?”
CFI: “Good, after touching down, just remove one notch of flaps and then do your take-off. Then take us back to Chino.”
The tower gave us a touch-n-go only, which was what we wanted anyway, and I brought it in for perhaps my best soft field landing I have ever done. As the nose settled down I took out the one notch of flaps and went full power, keeping the yoke back. We were airborne almost immediately. As soon as we were off the ground he said “Hold it right here” and he gave it some forward pressure on the yoke. I was surprised to see how low were were leveled off at, which is what I needed to see. Now that I have seen it hopefully it will be easier to do. I’ll find out when I fly with my CFI next week and we work on it.
I had previously told the tower we wanted to depart straight out for Chino and had been given the clearance, as well as to watch for the police helicopter. I told the tower we had him in sight and I was told to maintain separation. Riverside gave us a frequency change so I dialed in the ATIS for CNO, got the information, and called up the tower asking for a full stop. All the activity at the airport had died down and we were given a straight in for 26R, #2 to land.
CFI: “Your choice of what kind of landing you want to do.”
Me: “How about a no flaps, I haven’t done one of those in forever.”
CFI: “Sounds good.”
I carried the extra speed that I needed without the flaps down, floated it a little and settled down a little left of the center line.
Me: “I think I can still make the first turn off.”
CFI: “Oh yeah, no problem.”
As I turned off on taxiway Delta I felt pretty good. I had made the first turn-off which is at the 2,000′ point on the runway after coming in on a no flaps landing. I called up Ground for my taxi clearance back to the school and then the CFI gave me his review.
CFI: “Well, if I could sign your ticket right now I would, that was great.”
Me: “Seriously, I felt like I was pretty sloppy today.”
CFI: “You’re not going for a commercial ticket, this is just for your Private Pilot. Sure you drifted a little left on that last landing which wouldn’t pass commercial, but this is for your Private and that was good enough.”
Me: “Great, thank you.”
Hopefully my Examiner has the same philosophy. I guess I’ll find out on the 15th.